Science and Tech


A G-20 Challenge: How Do We Get More Food From Less Water?

Agriculture strains the world's supply of fresh water. The question is how do we feed a hungry planet without tapping out the water supply?
Posted at 10:49 AM, Jul 06, 2017

When world leaders meet at G-20 in Germany on Friday and Saturday to discuss global issues, they'll spend some time talking about something everyone on Earth depends on: keeping agriculture sustainable as we use more and more water.

We already use 70 percent of available fresh water for agriculture. In parts of the world, we're using it faster than it's replenished.

By 2050, 9 billion people will need food, which will call for a 50 percent increase in agricultural production — and will use even more water.

G-20's agricultural ministers say we won't be able to feed everyone unless we get more efficient with our water. But even though it's a huge order, there are plenty of ways to go about it.

Simple irrigation improvements like canal linings can make farm water use more efficient. Growing crops that need less water or breeding plants for drought resistance also can help.

And in January, G-20's agriculture group committed to building sustainable water policies that reach across government and industry. The more that farmers and policymakers understand about the scope of the challenge, the easier it will be to meet it.